Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spring Harbingers...and Ultrarunnning

Image credit Gary

Well, the three essential ingredients of spring have hit here: the Eastern Redbuds are in full bloom, and I think the House Wrens have returned from their winter down south somewhere.  Oh, and number 3 is spring work projects, not pictured here.

I thought I heard one (a house wren) singing yesterday but have not confirmed that today...yet.  If not today, any day now.  We have a number of houses like the one pictured scattered around the estate, so they'll have their pick.  I like this one because the license plate roof came from my dear departed co-worker Dottie, and I always think of here whenever I walk by this particular wren house.

I wonder how they compete with the Carolina Wren, which we had overwinter here in 2014-15?

The connection to Ultrarunning is that I gotta get out for a backcountry run soon to see how the woodland flora are coming on.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Uh-Oh, Brian

Seems that Brian Williams' exaggerations are continuing to be rooted out, the latest catch pertaining to his presence at the Arab Spring protests in Egypt's Tahir Square back in 2011.

Actually, the details don't matter too much, it's the bigger picture that matters, so I really appreciated this analysis over at First Draft:

Again, this isn’t nothing. Brian Williams had a very big chair with a very big microphone in front of it. But the stories we’ve heard about aren’t exaggerations on the facts of the story as they related to the story or anyone in it. They’re exaggerations on how fucking cool and badass Brian Williams is, and about all the crazy shit he’s seen, man. They’re basically a guy in a bar, telling war stories, only he’s on TV.
That’s not okay, but it’s not the UVA rape story. It’s not Judith Miller’s Iraq reporting. Nobody died. And more attention is being paid to these fabrications than the ones that did lead to deaths. To wars
So we are arguing about who fucked up the color of the bunting on the runaway train. Yeah, let’s fire that guy, because he screwed up. But let’s also find out why the brakes failed and the cargo’s flying off and oh, up ahead, is that a hole? A big one? Well, shit. Guess we’re going straight in.
All lies are lies and all lies on this scale are wrong and should be rooted out. But not all lies lead to the same place.

Seems that the hapless Brian is the only one being held accountable for lies pertaining to Iraq (yes, I realize this story is about Egypt) but it does certainly beg the question as to why "the media" isn't conducting a massive analysis of how the war in Iraq was sold and prosecuted.  Sure, President Obama made quite the point about looking forward, not backward, when it came to war crimes...but I think that he was trying to set a self-serving precedent for when his actions might later be scrutinized.  

In other words, rather than do the right things as president and thus NOT be at risk for crimes, he instead chose to tee up an established precedent for future presidents to have a get-out-of-jail-free card.  Think about the drone war and how that'll look in hindsight.  Oh wait!  Hopefully the next president won't want to look back either!

The bride and I (in truth, me much more than her) used to be news junkies, but of late we've pulled back.  And you know what?  The world keeps on going, minus some of our outrage.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cats in Art: Patrick Steen's Cat on a Radiator (Hockney)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  We'll continue with a third and probably final post from David Hockney.

 Image credit The Great Cat, here.  Patrick Steen's Cat on a Radiator, David Hockney; date, medium, size, and holder unknown.

Now this is a mystery image.  I found it only on the site The Great Cat, attributed to David Hockney, yet a thorough search of the web reveals no other information about the existence of this image.  So it might not even be a Hockney work.

So let's just focus on the image.  Although my reading tells me that British artist Hockney was much more of a dog person, he really captures the essence of a blissful cat sleeping.  Perched up off the floor, totally relaxed, paw dangling, warmed from below (cats are true connoisseurs of heat), what strikes me most is the kitty's facial expression.  

The cat just looks happy, and Hockney nails it so well.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Flannery's Pub Half Marathon

This past weekend I ran a road half marathon with an old trail buddy, Jody.  We were running with his brother-in-law, whose pace was a tad slower, so the race for us was largely a leisurely stroll for 13 miles.

I must confess that it was a very fun day, in a race situation yet not feeling the need to press or accelerate.  We cracked the 2:30 barrier, which was a goal of brother-in-law.  And despite the slower pace (just over 11:00 per mile) , I managed to snag an age group trophy.

In all honesty, this was more a testament to the dearth of 60+ runners than to my speed, but I'll take it anyway with pride:

Finishers' medal plus 60-64 age group 3rd place trophy

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Moon and Venus Tues 21 Apr 2014...and Ultrarunning

Just stepped out front to try to summon our outside cats, and was dumbstruck by the sight of the waning cresent moon and Venus in the western sky.

This is an iPhone 5 photo (image credit Gary) and the moon looks more like a circle than a crescent, but the photo is pretty cool nonetheless:

The skies, they are wonderful!  

This sky reminds me of the memorable night back in 1998 when Bill Ladieu and I were training for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run.  We picked a night for an overnight training run in southern PA when the moon was largely full and ran the Appalachian Trail south from Pine Grove Furnace to Caledonia Park...and back, some 38 miles or so.

The moon was full and during many parts of the run we could turn off our lights and just run by moonlight.

Think about that for a moment.  If you've run 100 miles, you've run overnight.  How many people in  your circle of friends, relatives, and acquaintances have run on trails in the moonlight?

We are an elite group--not in the sense of special or better but rather in the sense of doing something way cool that very few people will ever experience.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cats in Art: A Black Cat Leaping (Hockney)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  We'll continue with last week's artist, David Hockney.

Image credit Goldmark Art, here.  A Black Cat Leaping, David Hockney, 1969 (from the story The Boy who Left Home to Learn Fear. For Six Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm), approx 10" square, etching aquatint, for sale at the Goldmark Gallery.

It always boggles my mind to realize that there's a ton of art, by well-known artists, that's actually for sale, and regular people can, well, buy it if they are so inclined.

As for this image, what strikes me is that although there is a cat--a very large cat--headed straight for his face, the seated man remains unmoved and imperturbable.  The cat, for its part, seems fierce and dangerous with its mouth open and ready to bite in the next split second.

One could read all kinds of symbolism into this image, and it'd all be sheer speculation, so better just enjoy the art.  I'd mention that at first glance the painting seems flat and 2-dimensional...but then I note the shadows on the floor and suddenly think the image comes to life and is almost in motion.

Anyway, you--yes, YOU--could actually own this unsigned piece for £950 (that's 950 British pounds).

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

One of my most pleasant memories is when a pilot friend couple with a Cessna flew us up to Cleveland several years ago just for a day trip.  We flew into a small municipal airport right beside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum; we walked over and spent an absolutely wonderful day wandering amongst musical memorabilia.

Image credit I. M. Pei, here

Tonight is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2015 induction ceremony where 8 artists/groups will become part of music history.  Artists are eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record, and chosen based on their influence and contributions to rock music. 

The 2015 inductees are:

  • Ringo Starr
  • The "5" Royales
  • The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  • Green Day
  • Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
  • Lou Reed
  • Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble
  • Bill Withers

But all is not well in Rock and Roll.  Here are three favorites of mine--bands that have never even been nominated--who surely deserve to be so enshrined: Jethro Tull, Moody Blues, Bad Company.

I know that everybody has a story involving love and music from their formative years, but Jim Croce, who is largely responsible for me and the bride getting hitched 40 years ago, has never been nominated either.

Just for kicks, take a moment to Google "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame snubs" and you'll be treated to thousands of hits.  I could have chosen from any number of sites, but here's a great site that you should click on over to and scope out to see who is not in (I can't easily reproduce their list here).

Keep in mind, though, the bigger picture: climate change looms, we continue to be a war-obsessed species, most of the prospective Republican presidential wanna-bes are batshit crazy...so who is in, and who is not in, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is clearly only a first-world problem.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Interstellar...and Ultrarunning

[Editorial update: going with a slightly modified design for the blog]

The bride and I watched the film Interstellar last evening.

A great site that a close friend and movie buff constantly mentions is IMDb, a treasure trove of all things film.  Here's the summary story line on Interstellar:

In the near future, Earth has been devastated by drought and famine, causing a scarcity in food and extreme changes in climate. When humanity is facing extinction, a mysterious rip in the space-time continuum is discovered, giving mankind the opportunity to widen its lifespan. A group of explorers must travel beyond our solar system in search of a planet that can sustain life. The crew of the Endurance are required to think bigger and go further than any human in history as they embark on an interstellar voyage into the unknown. Coop, the pilot of the Endurance, must decide between seeing his children again and the future of the human race.

All in all, I liked the movie, although it dragged a bit at times, and the science was sometimes tough to follow (probably why the bride was lukewarm about it).  But the main theme about the film that really resonated with me was the need for humankind to explore, to get off the earth, to ensure the survival of the species (plus there was a good love story component).

But the reason I even mention the film today is that coincidentally I was just reading a post of Phil Plait's over at Bad Astronomy--which you really should read at least weekly--a post about the SpaceX company proposed mission to Mars.  Phil took a tour of the SpaceX plant at the invitation of the founder and owner, Elon Musk, and came away very impressed about Musk's answer as to why explore beyond the Earth:

Musk didn’t hesitate. “Humans need to be a multiplanet species,” he replied.
And pretty much at that moment my thinking reorganized itself. He didn’t need to explain his reasoning; I agree with that statement, and I’ve written about it many times. Exploration has its own varied rewards ... and a single global catastrophe could wipe us out. Space travel is a means to mitigate that, and setting up colonies elsewhere is a good bet. As Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (the father of modern rocketry) said, “The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in the cradle forever.”
The overall atmosphere in the factory was one of working at a progressive company on an exciting project. Of course: They build rockets. But the feeling I couldn’t put my finger on before suddenly came into focus. The attitude of the people I saw wasn’t just a general pride, as strong as it was, in doing something cool. It was that they were doing something important. And again, not just important in some vague, general way, but critical and quite specific in its endgame: making humans citizens of more than one world. A multiplanet species.
It’s easy to dismiss this statement, think of some snark as a way to minimize it and marginalize it as the thinking of a true believer. But—skeptic that I am—I’ve come to realize this is not minimal. It is not marginal. This is a real, tangible goal, one that is achievable. And SpaceX is making great strides toward achieving it.
That’s when I also realized that the initial question itself was ill-posed. It’s not why Elon Musk wants to get to Mars. It’s why he wants humanity to get there.
I think that's a pretty good idea.

And since the U.S. government is not prioritizing NASA, it seems that it may be up private individuals, such as Elon Musk, to get us off the planet.

Oh, and I'd better bring in the mandatory Ultrarunning reference.  It's not hard, actually: seems to me that the same compulsion that propels us to run vast distances in the backcountry is the same compulsion that will lift us off this planet.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Providing for our Feathered Friends

The bride and I feed birds and enjoy seeing the wide variety of feathered creatures that populate our yard and surroundings.

Image credit Gary

After years of cleaning out nest boxes and seeing the wide variety of materials used, I decided to assist by providing short pieces of binder twine, unraveled down to the individual threads.

That's the binder twine in the foreground of the shot above, held down by a railroad spike, but easily pulled out by a determined bird.

[Note: please excuse my disgusting-looking coffee cup; I was dunking a biscotti, which left junk in the mug.]

From my Birdcam

From my Birdcam

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

BIG Shortfall in the National Park Service Budget...and Ultrarunning

Seems that our beloved NPS--and when I say "beloved" I am not being facetious, this is a vital agency for the things we love--and which has an approximately $11.5 billion backlog on deferred maintenance costs, according to this mainstream Marketplace article.

The article focused on the famous DC cherry blossoms, in full bloom as we speak, but it's part of the larger issue that affects all 50 states:
Craig Obey, the senior vice president of the National Parks Conservation Association, said that the federal neglect of the National Park Service’s funding is a bipartisan problem that has grown more severe in the past 30 years.

“I think the parks have been dealing with less for quite a while, they’ve been asked to do more with less and we are at the point where they’re able to do less with less,” Obey said.

And indeed, the “less” is lessening, Obey said, “because the Park Service gets about between $200 and $300 million less than they need each year just to keep it even, not even to begin reducing it.”
Too bad there is not sufficient money elsewhere in the national budget that we could prioritize for this purpose.  Wait!!!...maybe I just found some money:

The future bill from the Afghan war is likely to run into hundreds of billions of dollars more. The Pentagon has indicated it wants funding of $120 billion for 2016-19 for operations in Afghanistan, although the eventual cost will depend on the future mission that the White House decides on.

This on top of the $765 billion already spent, according to the CNBC article.
Do you think that maybe we could spend this money on parks instead of war?  Butter instead of guns?  Trails on which to run in the backcountry instead of airfields and bases?  And leave a better legacy for our children and grandchildren?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Cats in Art: Mr. And Mrs. Clark and Percy (Hockney)

[Sorry this is a day late--life interferes with blogging sometimes]

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I am using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  

Image credit Tate GalleryMr. And Mrs. Clark and Percy, David Hockney, 1970-91, acrylic on canvas, 83" x 119", held by the Tate Gallery, London.

I'm back to images from the Zuffi book, who comments on this painting thusly:

This famous portrait depicts one of the most glamorous couples of the day, the stylist Ossie Clark and his wife, the model Celia Birtwell.  These are handsome, well-known people, their poses and look worthy of a magazine cover, surrounded by particular references to furnishings and taste.  Yet the painting's true protagonist may be the white cat, Percy, that, in deference to the millennia-old habits of his species, sits on his master's knees but is supremely uninterested in the scene, turning his back on the painter to gaze out the window.

First off, note that this painting is huge, some 7 feet tall and 10 feet wide--that's a big canvas!  And that Zuffi's observations are spot-on: Percy is basically being a cat, doing kitty things, to include ignoring things that are beneath his station in life.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

On the Other Hand...Thinking About Iran

Saw a good cartoon today by Dan Bagley, originally appearing in the Salt Lake Tribune:

This sentiment was echoed by Digby a few days back, when she wrote:

Am I the only one who finds it just a little bit odd that the American officials loudly claiming Iran cannot be trusted to fulfill any deal are simultaneously pledging that they will not fulfill any deal? Is it possible they have such little self-awareness?

I'm sure the Iranians will have to be very closely watched. There's a reason why this agreement is necessary in the first place. But bellowing about how untrustworthy they are while boldly asserting your own untrustworthiness doesn't exactly set a good example. 

Which again brings to mind the immortal words of Duncan Black, who blogs at Eschaton, entitled Wars are Bad:

And if for some reason the people who run the United States feel the need to start one, it means they've failed. It means they should all resign in shame and let someone else clean up their mess. This country has immense power - military, economic, political - and if you can't use the latter two, along with the implicit threat of the first one, to make war unnecessary then you've fucked up and it's time to go home.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The End of the American Civil War...

...was some 150 years ago.  It was this week that General Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant at Appomattox.  This effectively ended the war, although hostilities would continue for some weeks.

Anyway, when Mister Tristan (the 7 year old human being, not the blog) and I visited the Mile 106 stone of the Mason-Dixon Line a couple weeks ago (see my post here), Tristan took another photo of a simple stone wall.

I enhanced it using iPhoto with these results...which are eerily reminiscent, to me, of some of the photography of the Civil War:

Image credit Tristan

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

C+O Canal Run, In Which I Nearly Trigger a Road Rage Incident

Below photos are the highlight of my run yesterday.  I parked in Williamsport, MD at Cushwa Basin, ran the JFK road course in reverse for a couple miles, then cut down Falling Waters Road to reach the Canal.  All told about 6 miles road + 5 Canal (this makes an interesting loop as opposed to the typical out-n-back run along the towpath).

Flowers along the embankment; image credit Gary

Close-up, I don't recognize these guys and have not keyed them out yet; flower head is approx 2"-3" across.  Image credit Gary.

But you're wondering about the road rage, aren't you?

Whenever I run, which is frequently along rural roads, I am always amazed--in a negative sense--at just how much litter adorns the roadsides.  I usually flatten and carry home about 6 aluminum cans, though I'm more worried about the glass bottles I see.  These pose a hazard to the road, and to the food supply should they be processed into bales of hay, or be plucked up by a combine and wind up in corn, wheat or soybeans.

Can't carry bottles easily so I usually pick them up and deposit them at the next mailbox, trusting the resident to finish the Good Samaritan act that I started.

So...there was a funky, muddy beer bottle on the gravel just off the edge of the macadam that I picked up and carried up to the next house like I've done a thousand times before.  I glanced at the house: curtains drawn, a pickup truck in the driveway but no one in evidence, so I drop it beside the mailbox and run on.

I get perhaps 100 yards away and I hear some yelling from behind.  I ignored it for a sec, then realize it was probably the homeowner.  Yelling at me.  The guy continued to yell vociferously (I could not make out his words beyond "Hey!") so I just decided to continue running rather than try explain my litter control solution.

By now I'm a couple hundred yards away and the guy is now screeching.  That's the word that comes to mind, a screech, because the volume has not diminished despite me being twice as far away.  I accelerate a bit.

As I approach a full quarter mile, the screech becomes a full-blown scream, for the volume still stays level; I am imagining that this guy is now purple-faced.  I think of the scene in Blazing Saddles where the old codger is repeatedly trying to tell the townspeople that the approaching sheriff is black (he used another term), but a tolling bell kept drowning out his words.

Thankfully the road bends, I'm out of direct line of sight, and I take my planned right turn onto Falling Waters Road.  My back feels open and vulnerable; I'm waiting for the pickup truck to come roaring up behind me.  I get out my cell phone out of the pocket in my shorts, set it to Video and keep my finger in the button.  I'm ready to start instantly recording any encounter that might occur.

Then...nothing.  The guy was either not motivated enough to pursue...or perhaps he picked up the bottle, realized that it could not possibly have been one from which I had been drinking and tossed aside indiscriminately onto his lawn, and figured out that I was merely policing the roadside.

At any rate I didn't feel safe until 15-20 minutes had passed, and did not feel relaxed until I actually reached the C+O Canal towpath.  Then the soothing effect of the forest and river calmed my psyche.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

An Interesting Parallel

Via Digby, who points us to an interesting post by Steven Walt.  Mr. Walt draws a parallel between the (failed) war on drugs and our (failed) wars of intervention in the Middle East:

The final reason for recurring failure is the tendency to rely on the same people, no matter what their past track records have been. We’ve seen a revolving door of (unsuccessful) Middle East peace negotiators who then spend their retirements giving advice on how future peace negotiations should be conducted. We’ve got a CIA director who’s been centrally involved in U.S. counterterrorism policy since the early 1990s, and who continues to enjoy the president’s confidence despite a dodgy relationship with the truth and a conspicuous lack of policy success. We’ve got famous generals who were better at self-promotion than at winning wars, yet whose advice on what to do today is still eagerly sought. And of course we’ve got a large community of hawkish pundits offering up the same bellicose advice, with no acknowledgement of how disastrously their past recommendations have fared. The result is that U.S. policy continues to run on the same familiar tracks, and with more or less the same unhappy results.
Just like the war on drugs.

I can't speak for the personnel of the war on drugs, but I know that some of the biggest cheerleaders for war with Iran (think Dick Cheney)--instead of being disgraced as war criminals and emptying bedpans in VA hospitals for the rest of their miserable lives--are somehow considered elder statesmen whose opinions on the matter, matter.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Adventure Quotient...and Ultrarunning

For lack of a better term, I've invented "Adventure Quotient."  Perhaps it's already been invented; I don't know.  Sometimes is hard as you get older to attribute ideas to brand new thoughts, versus "I must have read somewhere...."

At any rate, by Adventure Quotient I'm describing the notion of being up for new challenges, willingness to press the limits, being open to testing oneself.  In other words, the willingness to go to the edge.

For me, going to the edge and seeing what's there--physically and mentally--has always been the allure of this sport.

I've previously posted about the edge--which is a real space--here, saying:

This post is simply a plug for using the vehicle of a race to go to a place deep within yourself, a place on the edge where the vast mass of humanity never goes, and sadly, never even suspects is there. And so the measure of success in a race is not necessarily the time showing on the clock, or the distance run, the position placed, the medals, the ribbons, the certificates, or the camaraderie, fine as all those things may be. 
No, the true measure of success in a race is whether you did your best, and in giving your best, did you somehow approach that edge?  Did you flirt with that shadowy realm of total intensity, where vicariousness was abandoned for immersion?  Did you somehow sense that survival is not merely an abstract concept rendered quaintly obsolete by the veneer of civilization?

Anyway...back to my Adventure Quotient concept: if the edge is a place, then your Adventure Quotient is your willingness to try to go there.  And I see as I've gotten older that my willingness to put myself out there has dwindled.  Maybe it's not quite gone, but increasingly when offered the opportunity for a challenge, I tend to pass: it's too early, too far, we'd get back too late, I'm undertrained.

I guess I feel a bit wistful when I think about it, a kind of bittersweet feeling, realizing that I've figuratively passed the torch on to the next generation of Ultrarunners.  A man (or a woman) has got to know his/her limitations.

But...although my Adventure Quotient is low, it's not entirely vanished.  So I'm increasingly thinking of my adventures being on a smaller scale, but still adventures nonetheless.

So while I can no longer run like a 30-year-old, I certainly can run as a 63-year-old.  After all, intensity and adventure are relative....

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Cats in Art: Red Ocean Cat (Kotoit)

From my continuing series of cats in art, a final item from our recent Key West trip.

If I recall correctly, this June 2014 painting hangs in a gallery (one that permits photography), and is for sale.  Unfortunately I cannot recall the particular gallery, of which Key West has many, and among which we spent several pleasant wandering hours.

If the painting grabs you, better hop on a plane and start the gallery search!

Painter is Zbyczek Kotoit, June 2014.  Size is perhaps 18" x 24".  Did not note the title, but for purposes of this post I'm simply calling it Red Ocean Cat.

I love how the image is kinda quirky and oceany, and for me was a classic example of the local art.

We had just come from lunch in a busy outdoor bar.  When the bartender brought our drinks, he asked where we were from, and when we told him Pennsylvania, he merely commented, "Why?"

To me, that conversation and this painting epitomized Key West.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Sunbathing Frogs

The bride and I uncovered our water garden a couple of days ago.  It's a free form pool, roughly kidney-shaped and about 20' long and 4' wide.  In the off season I cover it to keep out leaves, using panels I built out of sections of welded wire stock panels, cut to about 5' x 5', then covered with 1/2" hardware cloth.

Anyway, on the first full day when the frogs could now hop out onto the banks, a pair of frogs quickly availed themselves of the opportunity:

Image credits Gary.  This was the smaller rookie, just sitting out in plain view.

And this was the twice-as-large old veteran, nicely hidden among some leaves and the Creeping Jenny ground cover.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Perhaps More "Golden Rule" Might be Appropriate?

I have watched with interest the poopstorm that is swirling in the state of Indiana under the leadership of Gov. Pence.

As long-time readers may recall, I've often  expressed my support for gay rights, as I have gay members in my extended family.  They are regular people, with all the hopes and dreams of any regular people, oh, and by the way, just happen to be wired differently than the majority when it comes to the objects of their love affections.

So to me, it's pretty clear.  The Indiana legislation is vile, and despite the "religious freedom" spin that the proponents try to put on it, it's thinly veiled bigotry.

I read a piece by Amanda Marcotte today that truly expresses my thoughts but in a way that is so much better than my words.  Here is an excerpt but you should go read the whole thing.

Up until recently, most of us seemed to understand that the best way to maximize religious freedom for everyone was to stay in your own lane: You can choose what to believe yourself, but if you start trying to force your beliefs on others, that is when a line has been crossed. And while conservatives grumbled about it, there was widespread acceptance of the idea that “force” meant more than just government force. An employer trying to force his employees to follow his religious rules, for instance, was violating religious freedom. A shop owner who refused to serve Jews would also be considered in violation (in most people’s eyes, at least). 

But in the past few years, we’ve witnessed a dramatic and surprisingly successful effort to redefine “religious freedom” to mean “empowering Christian conservatives to force their dogma on the non-believers.” It really started when the HHS passed a regulation requiring insurance plans to cover contraception without a copay. Many conservative employers revolted, claiming their religious freedom should allow them the right to deny workers coverage of procedures or medications they don’t like. 

Materially, it was no different than an employer claiming he cannot practice his religion freely without being able to go to his employee’s house and take away any books he disagrees with that she bought with her paycheck. It was arguing that an employer’s “religious freedom” requires him to force his beliefs on his employee and try to manipulate her compensation in order to get her to live by his religious rules, regardless of her own beliefs. But the Supreme Court bought it and now the door is open.

When is forcing your faith “religious liberty” and when is it just being a dick?

Also, I wonder in the zeal for "religious freedom" how the Golden Rule got bypassed: 

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”